Podcast

Meet the Bird With Built-In Snowshoes

Feathery feet help ptarmigans travel on top of the snow during winter.

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of The National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.

Transcript:

This is BirdNote.

With its rubbery-sounding rattles and clownish red eyebrows, the ptarmigan is quite the stand-out northern bird.

And it’s particularly well adapted to wintertime in the snowy realms it calls home. Like Cinderella at midnight, this bird is utterly transformed by winter.

During the autumn molt, the ptarmigan sheds its mottled brown plumage for a cloak of snowy-white.

And skip the glass slippers. As the winter approaches, the ptarmigan’s feet grow feathers! Even the bird’s claws grow longer. And that added surface area means the ptarmigan is ready to travel over the snow. It practically has its own set of snowshoes.

If you or I tried to travel across ptarmigan turf in winter, we’d likely sink into the snow up to our shins, our thighs, or even our hips. But not this bird!

The ptarmigan’s genus name, Lagopus, is a combination of the Greek words meaning 'foot' and 'hare'… like a rabbit. Lagopus: hare-foot. The name’s a nod to another big-footed northerner, the snowshoe hare.

For more on the ptarmigan and other birds we feature, check out our website, birdnote.org. I’m Mary McCann.

Today’s show brought to you by the Bobolink Foundation.

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Credits:

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Willow Ptarmigan LNS #105769 recorded by GA Keller.

BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie

Editor: Ashley Ahearn

Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone

Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill

Narrator: Mary McCann

© 2019 BirdNote   October 2019

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